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Georgian romance

SPEED dating may be a relatively modern phenomenon, but the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth is offering an historic twist – Georgian speed dating.

On Saturday February 12 – just before Valentine’s Day – the museum will be hosting a Georgian-masked event in one of its prestigious galleries. The evening will include a drink

on arrival, a live string quartet to accompany proceedings, the opportunity to view some of the museum’s most romantic love letters – on display for the first time – and the chance to meet up to 50 like-minded single people. The event will run from 7.30- 10.30pm in the city’s Historic Dockyard, and costs £30. Booking is essential; for further details call 023 9272 7581 or email rowannah.martincottee@ And bring your own mask...

Dream job

HISTORIAN and author Nick Hewitt is the new Head of Attractions and Collections at the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.

Nick, who takes over from Frank Nowosielski, will be in overall charge of Action Stations and the Dockyard


exhibition in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport and the Trust’s collections. He has previously worked at the

Imperial War Museum, including spells on HMS Belfast, and has an MA in War Studies from King’s College London. Nick,

who has regularly

appeared on the TV and radio, said: “After 15 years combining the study of naval history with a museum career, coming to Portsmouth to take on such a varied and exciting role really is a dream come true for me.”

MAKING her way aboard the nation’s flagship last November, Her Majesty the Queen ascends the rather steep gangway of HMS Ark Royal.

gangway are two brand-new screens.

Nothing particularly unusual about that; the monarch’s used to smell of fresh paint and the sight of gleaming new objects wherever she visits.

Except that these new screens are saving the Fleet, and therefore

Flanking the side of that

the British taxpayer, thousands of pounds. They’re the brainchild of ex-senior rate ‘George’ Stewart, the senior sailmaking instructor with VT Flagship at HMS Raleigh, whose helped shave 90 per cent of the annual bill for replacing ‘gangway screens’,

as they’re

known, and peribuoys. Traditionally, a peribuoy –

beloved by senior officers for those ‘grip and grin’ shots – would take around 12 hours to re-paint at a cost of around £850. Or you can have one run off on PVC canvas in about 15

minutes for £17 courtesy of a computerised gizmo in Raleigh seamanship centre. The idea was first mooted four

years ago but not taken up. Thanks to George’s perseverance, Raleigh eventually invested in a specialist printer and computer at a cost of £12,000 – a not inconsiderable sum.

“They’d paid for themselves within two and a half months,” said Lt Andy Taylor,


group officer at the Seamanship Training Unit in Raleigh. “I was astounded by how much the screens and peribuoys used to cost.” Indeed, a pair of gangway screens would set a ship back around £1,500. From Raleigh, you can pick two up for £118. As well as saving the RN thousands of pounds, the new set-up has earned George £1,000 under the GEMS scheme, which rewards personnel and employees for ideas which save the MOD money or make things more efficient.

The new screens and buoys

also mean there’ll be a uniform look across the Fleet (branding these days is a big thing in the RN; there’s even a guidebook on ‘how to do it’). A quick walk around Devonport,

Portsmouth and Faslane and you’ll see a variety of screens – different fonts,

different background

colours and so on. “You’ll see red ones, blue ones, it just looks a bit amateurish. Now you can have uniformity – and that looks professional,” says George. The printer has also produced

giant banners for the Royal Naval and Royal Marines Charity which were unfurled down the side of the Tower of London recently (courtesy of a couple of abseiling commandos). But before you bemoan the demise of age-old skills in favour of ‘click and print’, well traditional methods are still taught by George and his shipmates at Raleigh. “The skills are still here, if

you’re away and you have to repair one of these, then you’ll have to do it manually,” he adds.

Screen saver

Theatre stages Alliance benefit

WHERE might you go to spot a submarine these days? Rhu Narrows, maybe, where

you might be lucky enough to spot a boat coming from or returning to Clyde Naval Base. Or Plymouth Hoe, where you

would occasionally catch sight of a T-boat. And how about at an Edwardian

theatre in the heart of Southsea? The Kings Theatre is staging a

Submarine Day in aid of the HMS Alliance Appeal, and to publicise the event a model submarine dived into the flooded basement beneath the stage of the venerable old playhouse, in Albert Road. Submarine Day itself is

Wednesday February 9, which will begin with a talk by submariner guide Paul Cubitt,


by a screening of the wartime submarine classic We Dive at Dawn,

following the exploits of

HMS Sea Tiger. The evening highlight is a screening of the 1968 Beatles film Yellow Submarine, complete with a live concert by the Silver Beatles, once voted the second-best Beatles tribute band in the world. Submariners will be on hand to

answer questions about life in a long metal tube. The theatre is also staging a

photographic exhibition entitled All Hands Onboard, which depicts life on board a submarine, and which runs from January 31 to Thursday February 10. The event will raise money for

the HMS Alliance Appeal, which aims to help preserve the only British World War 2-era submarine open to the public in the UK. One of the highlights of the

Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Alliance serves as a memorial to the 5,300 submariners who have given their lives in service to their country, and the appeal aims to raise £6.5 million to cover conservation costs. Tickets for the Submarine

appeal, see www.submarine- or call 023 9251 0354 ext 244.

Wraith rovers return

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SCARY and creepy are not normally words associated with a premier tourist attraction (outside the London Dungeon and its ilk) but the Historic Dockyard Chatham is happy to bandy such terms around. The former Royal Dockyard in

Kent welcomes thrill seekers with the return of its popular Ghost Walks and Talks programme. Twilight provides a suitably

eerie atmosphere, and the historic buildings a perfect backdrop, for strange stories of “intrigue, murder and mystery mixed with a little adventure and romance” as costumed guides lead groups through the yard.

New for the season are two

historical stories relating to No. 1 Smithery.

In 1866, a steam boiler

exploded, killing two men and injuring others, and in 1940 a lone German aircraft attacked Chatham and dropped a bomb on the north end of the Smithery building, killing three men outright with two more dying later from their wounds.


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Adults cost £10, including a glass of mulled wine, while teenagers aged 13-17 pay £8. Ghost walks for adults are held

on Wednesdays from February 16 to April 27 at 7pm and 7.30pm and last up to 1¾ hours. The minimum age is 13 years and teenagers must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

to availability of guides and a minimum of 15 people per booking. For younger ghost hunters, in the shadows of the Ropery they can hear spine-tingling stories specially designed for 8-12-year-olds. At the end they can make their

own piece of rope and visit the quarter-mile-long Ropewalk in the dark.

at 7pm will be held on Fridays February 18, March 18 and April 15, last 1¼ hours and cost £7 for children aged 8-12, £5 for adults. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Other nights are available on request for youth groups

Junior Ghost Walks, starting

Other nights are available for private bookings,


and birthday parties, subject to availability of guides and a minimum of ten children per booking. One adult free per ten children. Places on all Ghost Walks must be pre-booked and pre-paid by calling 01634 823815 or emailing See for full details.

There is also a full programme of activities over half-term, including the ‘Shipwrecks and Rescues’ programme held at the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection gallery. Features such as an activity trail and a chance to build and test your own self-righting lifeboat are included in the normal admission prices for the event, which runs from February 19-27.

Day are available from the Kings Theatre box office on 023 9282 8282, or online at www.kings- For more details on the Alliance

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